(This article was reviewed by the licensed clinical psychologist Fouad Monzer)
Do you ever find yourself falling victim to procrastination, fighting the seduction of an enticing Netflix series, or succumb to the endless scroll of social media?
We’ve all been there. In our quest to conquer these productivity killers, we can take a lesson from the brain’s mighty motivator: dopamine.
Whether you’re postponing cleaning your room, working out, or any other task you wish to accomplish, your dopamine levels have something to do with that procrastination.
In this article, we’ll delve into the role of dopamine, uncover its secrets, and explore how we can reverse engineer it to help us overcome procrastination and achieve peak productivity in our daily lives.
What is Dopamine?
To embark on this journey towards increasing our productivity, let’s first understand dopamine.
In the world of neuroscience, dopamine is a neurotransmitter often responsible for the “feel-good” feeling, as well as that of reward, pleasure, and motivation within our brains.
It’s the chemical messenger responsible for keeping us coming back for more of life’s little joys. Think of it as the craving that fuels your drive to take action, that “feel-good” sensation when you accomplish something.
For example, picture that rush of happiness and desire to dance when a catchy song comes on, or the sense of accomplishment and relaxation we feel after meditation – these are all healthy releases of dopamine.
Similar healthy releases of dopamine include:
- Listening to music
The Dark Side of Dopamine
While dopamine is a productivity booster, it can also lead us down the path of procrastination. The issue arises when we fall prey to instant gratification, such as watching cute cat videos online or mindlessly scrolling through TikTok.
These activities offer quick rushes of pleasure, and our brains quickly become addicted to them, simply because they are effortless and their reward is almost instant.
The opposite of that would be delayed gratification, an action that requires a little bit more willpower.
When given a choice between an immediate reward, such as indulging in high-carb food or mindlessly scrolling on your phone, and a delayed one, like the long-term benefits of regular exercise or a skincare routine with results that take time to manifest, your brain tends to favor the habit of immediate gratification.
This sets the stage for a never-ending cycle of procrastination, where we prioritize short-term satisfaction over long-term gains.
How often have you found yourself postponing important tasks in favor of swiping on your phone or binge-watching Netflix?
Both provide dopamine and satisfaction, but scrolling requires far less effort. It’s much easier to move your fingers than to tackle chores or workouts.
Breaking the Vicious Cycle
You may have heard the advice, “Just put your phone away,” but that’s only a short-term solution, as well as not being helpful at all. The craving for dopamine will only lead you back to your phone. Instead, we need a more strategic approach.
Setting a “phone curfew” or screen-time limits can help, but these can also be bypassed. Never underestimate the creativity of a brain when we feel lazy!
We could try more extreme measures such as never entering the cycle in the first place. How? By re-designing our environment to put us in the best conditions possible to become productive.
For example, if we always watch TV instead of cleaning our room, we could remove the TV from our room and relocate it somewhere else. If we always watch TikTok videos before sending important emails on our phones, we could remove the application completely. But that process is long and requires effort, commitment, and a great deal of willpower that we don’t have at the moment.
So, how exactly do we tackle laziness and procrastination effectively, if everything I mentioned won’t solve the problem?
There are many ways to get things done. If you’re a woman looking for an innovative way to become productive, then the book How To Get Sh*t Done is a great way to start!
The Reverse Engineer Technique
Renowned neuroscientist Andrew Huberman talks about a remarkable side of dopamine. Beyond being the source of satisfaction, dopamine is also released during an action, particularly when we feel we’re doing something right: ‘’Dopamine is what’s released anytime an animal or human thinks it’s on the right path, and that’s very subjective’’.
Think of it as momentum – once you start releasing dopamine, it impacts your mood and motivation, pushing you to do more. This energy surge is similar to the euphoria after a workout or completing a challenging task. The sense of being on the right path fuels your desire for more.
It’s no wonder the saying “If you want something done, give it to someone busy” rings true. Once you start, you are a different person.
Now, armed with the knowledge that dopamine has a momentum effect, how can we leverage it to conquer procrastination and phone scrolling? Huberman’s wisdom reveals that by doing something even more demanding than the task you’re avoiding, you can propel yourself into a productive state.
If you’re into physical exercise, go for a run. If you’re into literature, read a book. The sheer accomplishment and the “right path” feeling associated with the challenging act release dopamine. We can all agree that running is more demanding than tidying a room. Once you’ve conquered the former, the latter will seem like a breeze, and you’ll finish it in no time!
You can also engage in more mentally challenging exercises to start your dopamine momentum. Actions such as getting on an important phone call, organizing a trip, or contacting an old friend are all great examples.
The actions are not necessarily important, what’s important is to complete them!
Steps to take to overcome laziness using the reverse-engineer technique:
- Realize that you are postponing an activity.
- Think of anything you like to do that is deemed challenging and engage in that activity (preparing a recipe, going for a run, re-arranging a part of your house).
- Once completed, use that momentum and short success to tackle your original postponed activity.
- Feel free to take on any task that comes to mind!
In your pursuit of conquering laziness and procrastination, understanding the role of dopamine in your brain can be a game-changer.
By strategically outsmarting your brain with tasks that are both harder and enjoyable, you can unleash a surge of productivity that will empower you to breeze through your daily to-do list.
Remember, procrastination is a common struggle, and it’s okay to confront it head-on. Implement the strategies outlined in this article, and be patient with yourself.
Break free from the grip of laziness and procrastination, unlock your full potential, and achieve your goals. The next time you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling on your phone or indulging in Netflix, you’ll know exactly what to do!
Check out more of Rayen’s work at his blog: Ray’s Lifestyle Field
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.